Last Monday, the Moreland Commission to Investigate Public Corruption released its preliminary report. (Read the Commission’s press release, and the full report.)
The Commission’s report presents a deeply disturbing assessment of Albany and its culture of corruption. It provides an update on its ongoing investigations, and makes a number of reform recommendations.
Among the report’s recommendations for cleaning up Albany are:
– reducing campaign contribution limits;
– closing the “LLC” and the “party housekeeping account” loopholes;
– greater disclosure of “independent expenditures”;
– improving the state’s bribery laws; and
– imposing harsher criminal penalties for crimes that violate the public trust
– enacting a system of taxpayer-financed political campaigns
Most of these are not bad ideas at all. But we have a major problem with creating a system of taxpayer-funded political campaigns. Unshackle Upstate has been vocal in our opposition to this idea. The bottom line is that giving politicians a “blank check” from taxpayers to pay for their campaigns is not the solution to Albany’s corruption problems. In fact, based on New York City’s experience with such a program, it would almost certainly result in more political corruption, not less.
It is also worth noting that seven (both Republicans and Democrats) of the 25 Moreland Commission members “dissented” from the public financing recommendation, calling it “significantly flawed.” They point out that the Commission did not “cite any persuasive evidence that public financing reduces the kinds of public corruption that spawned this Commission.”
The dissenters also noted that “public financing has done little to stop the importance of large sums of money from politically and financially powerful groups.” And they even point out that New York’s City’s system has been manipulated by “special interests” (translation: powerful labor interests), who have been able to carve out loopholes in the system that benefit themselves.